What in the world means nomading?
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
― Jack Kerouac, On the Road
When the idea of my next trip started to seem more than that, I thought writing a blog about the experience would be nice. I had spent many years not writing a word and not needing nor missing it. But now I was sensing this strong call, this urge to share my thoughts, ideas, feelings, and experiences. Sure, I wasn’t going to tell anything new or which hadn’t already been said, but I was convinced then, and I still am today, that the more we are in this together, the merrier. Why? Because if we all genuinely contribute to increase a global ethical travellers’ critical mass, the sooner we’ll reach a change of paradigm. And that’s always good news.
Definition of a nomad
Someone told me recently I was a world nomad. We were talking about my upcoming trip around the globe and how I had moved from one place to another for the past 25 years. The Merriam-Webster’s definition of a nomad is “a member of a group of people who move from place to place, instead of living in one place all the time.” And as strange as it might sound, I had never really thought about it that way before. It’s true I haven’t lived in the same place/house/area/region/country for more than four years in a row, and I loved the concept, so I decided to name this blog after that idea.
The thing is that, as I was finishing articles and researching for new ones, I found myself wondering what was the intention behind the use we do of language. Why we choose one word and no other. What are the implications of this labelling. What we really mean when we label ourselves or others with any of these terms. Which is the real difference between similar concepts like global nomad, immigrant, and expat. You see, Wikipedia tells me a global nomad is a person who is living a mobile and international lifestyle, who aims to live location-independently, seeking detachment from particular geographical locations and the idea of territorial belonging. But isn’t an expat in that exact same situation? How come that when we use the term expatriate or immigrant, the connotation is different? I think it all comes to privilege.
Nomadism has been linked to what we now know as immigration, although there is a lot of debate on this fact. Nomadic cultures and today’s immigration have had to contend with very different criteria, motivations, and priorities such as the political, social and economic aspect of population movement. Nomads have, however, shown to manage priorities quite differently when compared to what we call immigration today. In modern immigration, safety and economic consideration is the deciding factor, unlike the nomadic communities, which often places cultural and social dimensions as a priority before incorporating the economic aspect.
Global nomading as an itinerant lifestyle
Most global nomads come from western countries. We are privileged, having the financial resources to move (either because we have savings, or get a pension), or we have the skills needed to work on the go. And although this lifestyle challenges many of the dominant norms and ideals in Western societies including home ownership, accumulation of wealth, nationalism, and the idea of being rooted in one place, it also depends on a state-issued passport that is needed for our travels. So, we are, therefore, in a paradoxical situation: to practice extreme mobilities, we must retain a home territory.
According to Philip L. Pearce in The Backpacker Phenomenon: Preliminary Answers to Basic Questions, the term global nomad is a neologism rarely encountered before the year 2000. And it makes sense. Low-cost airlines and remote jobs started to pop out around that date, and the proliferation of information and communication technologies started to afford more opportunities for modern travellers.
It also seemed to engage a wider range of people in itinerant lifestyles; people who wanted to volunteer, work and/or travel the world at the same time. People who wanted to connect with other people and communities worldwide. People who thrive to do some good, not just in their communities, but around the globe.
Do yourself are a nomad or feel you are becoming one? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section.
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